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New Zealand politicians have hit back at Israeli Embassy claims that the island nation encourages “an acceptance of anti-Semitic behavior.” Lawmaker Murray McCully rejected the charges made by Canberra-based embassy spokesman Dor Shapira, who was referring to a new television show’s advertising campaign that was seen as derogatory toward Jews. “I think New Zealanders would utterly reject the offensive billboard that was displayed,” McCully told the Dominion Post in Wellington on Saturday. The billboards, advertising a new program called “Madmen,” stated: “Advertising Agency Seeks: Clients. All business considered, even from Jews.” They were dismantled on June 5 following complaints by the New Zealand Jewish Council to Prime TV.

“The billboard was clearly tasteless, it was offensive, it was totally indefensible and I hope that those responsible are made aware of the level of offense that they’ve caused,” McCully added.

A spokesman for National party leader, John Key, whose mother was a Polish Jew, also deplored the ad, as did Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter.

New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman told JTA the adverts were “grossly offensive” and that a “profuse apology was needed and was given.”

Shapira welcomed the statements by politicians. “It is our hope that an apology will only be the start of an entire campaign to remove this repugnant and negative mindset from the culture and political environment in New Zealand,” he said.

In 2004, diplomatic relations between Wellington and Jerusalem were severed for more than a year after two Israelis were caught trying to procure a Kiwi passport. Israel later apologized but neither confirmed nor denied they were Mossad agents.

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